While it's fresh on my mind and Liam is fast asleep on my chest, I wanted to write it all down: the story of Liam's birth.
On Friday the 26th, I had my 39+ week appointment with my midwife and was told I was 2cm dilated. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for at least 10 weeks, and they were pretty steady - but it didn't seem like much was changing. So to hear I was 2cm dilated - that something was actually happening! - was so exciting. My midwife even told us, "We could have a baby this weekend!" I'm not sure I really believed that, but felt encouraged nonetheless. After the appointment, Shawn and I headed to Maggiano's for lunch to celebrate the progress and said to each other, "This might be our last date before he's here."
The Braxton Hicks contractions continued all day long at 6 to 7 minutes apart, but didn't feel any differently than they'd felt for weeks. But by around 11pm that night, the contractions began to pick up... rapidly... and by about midnight, they were coming steadily every 2 minutes. They still weren't painful, but seemed progressively stronger, so I called the midwife on call to see what I should do. Because the contractions were so frequent, she told me to go ahead and come in to the hospital so she could at least check me to see if I was really in labor.
We packed our things in no real rush, but by the time we got in the car around 12:30am, I had a better feeling that yes - this was real labor. Contractions were becoming stronger, to where I couldn't really talk through them, as we drove through mostly empty streets on a chilly, drizzly October night. We played Fernando Ortega's CD of hymns and I gripped Shawn's hand a little tighter with each contraction. As soon as we pulled into the emergency room entrance, another strong contraction came and I felt a pop and a huge gush of warm water. My water had broken right there in the car, and it was then that it really sunk in. We were having a baby. We wouldn't be leaving the hospital without him. Shawn dropped me off at the ER entrance and I walked in with my pants sopping wet, dripping amniotic fluid all over the ER floor. The staff didn't have to ask too many questions. They just looked at me - and my soaked pants - smiled, printed out my admissions forms and wristbands, and waited to ask their many questions between contractions.
Once Shawn met up with me, we headed upstairs to Labor & Delivery with our nurse for the night and were so thankful to get a room with a labor tub. By this time it was about 1:30am, and the midwife on call checked me. I was only 3cm dilated, but fully effaced, and the contractions felt so different since my water had broken. I still felt somewhat in control, but without the cushion of amniotic fluid, it felt a little more unbearable with each contraction. We took a walk around the hall, swayed a lot, and I hung on Shawn relentlessly. He was incredibly calm and supportive, reminding me to breathe, whispering prayers in my ear, and telling me how great I was doing.
Time passed slowly and quickly all at once. I had no sense of what time it was, and would only get a 30-second break between contractions. Sometimes the contractions were so intense that my knees would buckle, my whole body would shake, and all I could do was remember to breathe.
Within an hour of the first check, I was checked again to be 5cm. By this time, I was begging for relief. The labor tub felt miserable (I thought it would help much more than it did!) and really nothing but deep breathing did anything for the pain. I had not planned on getting an epidural, but was progressing so quickly that I felt I was drowning in the pain. After talking with Shawn and the midwife, I opted for the epidural.
And then another hour passed. No anesthesiologist in sight (other patients were slated to receive theirs before me) and I started to feel myself going into the incredibly intense labor period of transition. My body shook as I tried my hardest to breathe through the pain, but everything just felt so out of control and so fast. I had worried that the epidural would stall labor, but no one seemed to be concerned about that at all because I was progressing so quickly. The nurses were asking me, "What did you do to get such a short labor?! We never see this for first babies." It felt like a blessing and a curse.
Finally, I was able to get the epidural and feel some relief. I got the lowest dose possible so I could still feel the pressure of the contractions and could move my legs, but felt much less pain. And within just a couple hours, I was fully dilated. So in total, I went from 3cm to 10cm in just under 5 hours. Ouch.
Before and after the epidural, Liam's heart rate dipped a bit during the stronger contractions, so I had to wear an oxygen mask through the final few hours. It was probably due to the cord being compressed because my water had already broken. Being a nurse, I knew way too much for my own good and watched the heart monitor like a hawk. My nurse was so patient with me, calmly telling me to try to rest and let her worry about the monitor. She really wasn't all that concerned, and thankfully, the oxygen was helping.
So by the time I was completely dilated, we were waiting for my primary midwife to arrive. That, in itself, was an answered prayer as we had hoped and prayed she would be on call that day. I always thought as soon as you're dilated to 10cm, you start pushing. Isn't that what happens in all the movies? :) But my nurse told me to rest as long as possible to allow my body to move the baby down even further so I wouldn't have to push long. No one wanted me to have to push for 3 hours if I didn't have to.
So I was able to rest - and Shawn slept a little - and my mom came to visit as we waited for the pushing to start. At this point, I still felt uncomfortable, but felt much more in control and rested. I even put my makeup on right before the pushing so I'd feel a little better. I was thanking God for the epidural - though unplanned - because my birth experience was becoming such a more positive one than the hours of intense pain before.
When it was finally time to push around 9am, it was just four of us in the room: me, Shawn, my midwife Lauren, and our incredible nurse Emily. The nurse and midwife were both so peaceful, and really set the tone for a sacred experience. We set up a mirror so I could see progress, and with just the first push, I saw him crowning.
There's an Anthony Evans song, "Your Great Name," that I wanted to have played as he was delivered - so after about 20 minutes of pushing, Shawn started the song from our computer. We could see nearly all of his head, so we knew it was close. As the song played, tears streamed down my face... and Shawn's. It was such an incredibly powerful moment. No stress. No fear. Exactly what we had prayed. I watched in the mirror during my final push to see his sweet face for the first time. It was a gray-blue color, with the cord wrapped once around his neck, but everyone stayed calm as I was able to birth his body and Shawn pulled him out and up onto my chest. It took him a few seconds to pink up and begin to cry, and he cried just a tiny bit before just laying there peacefully looking at me. I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful moment. I can't even put it into words.
We looked him over - 10 fingers and toes (and no clubbed feet!) - a mini Shawn with fuzzy blond hair. He was so calm and alert for the first hour as we drunk in his beauty. 8 lbs. 2 oz. (much bigger than anyone had guessed) and 21 1/4 inches long. He was so long inside my short torso that I literally felt him kicking my ribs as his head came out. A feeling I'll never forget.
About an hour after birth, my mom came to see him and then we were moved to our postpartum room where a couple friends of ours were waiting. He's the calmest, most peaceful baby. He loves being held and snuggled, and smiles in his sleep. He is the joy of our lives.
We were able to go home about 30 hours after his delivery, and it's been the most wonderful time getting to know him. We're elated, exhausted, and so in love with him. We feel so blessed to be his parents and we couldn't have asked for a more incredible birthday for Liam. God answers prayer.